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Annual economic development conference starts Monday in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia Economic Development Council will hold its annual fall conference beginning Monday at the Morgantown Marriott Waterfront Place.

WVU president Gordon Gee, Morgantown Mayor Bill Kawecki and Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom will hold an opening forum.

Marshal University officials and WVU professor John Deskins will also hold presentations. A legislative update and information about the emerging cannabis market are also scheduled.

West Virginia Economic Development Council president Robbie Morris said a major focus of the conference is diversification within the state economy.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth in the auto industry. We have a lot of growth in aerospace. We’re seeing growth in chemicals,” he said. “But there’s other things especially technology-related we want to go after.”

Morris added the event will feature tours of WVU’s athletic facilities and areas of economic development areas around Morgantown.

“Morgantown is obviously a very bright spot in West Virginia, and our economy with so many different developments,” he said.

The two-day event will also offer ways to improve employee recruiting and understand the current workforce.

The WVU John Chambers College of Economics and Business and West Virginia Forward are the presenting organizations.

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Lakeview online auction begins Monday

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — An online auction begins Monday for Lakeview Golf Resort & Spa near Cheat Lake in Monongalia County.

The minimum bid starts at $1 million. The online auction will stretch through Wednesday.

The resort was buit in 1950. The property includes 412 acres, 187 rooms and two 18-hole golf courses — Lakeview and Mountainview.

Those participating in the auction will have to pay a $10,000 fee to participate. The auction is being overseen by Ten-X Commercial, an online auction company.

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RISE West Virginia adds 3 homes to completed list

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The number of completed homes in the RISE West Virginia Program has risen by three.

The program said in a release that over the past week construction crews completed three final inspections on mobile home projects in Kanawha and Lincoln Counties, bringing the total to 65 homes.

According to RISE West Virginia, there are 53 other homes that are in active construction through four different contractors.

132 notices have been issued among the contractors to proceed with the projects in the program, which means the projects can begin demolition and construction.

Of the 53 homes in active construction, 13 are mobile home replacements, 22 are reconstruction projects, four are rehabilitation projects and 14 are in demolition, the release said.

The current number of active cases covered under the RISE West Virginia Program stands at 391. Program leadership said the complete numbers are 65 homes are finished, 251 cases require total reconstruction, 37 cases require some form of rehabilitation actions, 102 cases require new mobile home replacement, and one case is awaiting initial project type and undergoing the damage assessment process.

West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) is continuing work on numerous reconstruction and rehabilitation projects the past week in Kanawha County. The public is asked to contact VOAD if they feel they still have any unmet needs or who are looking for an update on their case. feel they still have any unmet needs or who are looking for an update on their case.

A hotline is also available for anyone needing to report fraud with regard to the RISE West Virginia program at 1-866-WVWATCH (1-866-989-2824).

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Longview Power CEO sees combined-cycle facility as ‘key’ in electricity business

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The CEO of Longview Power says a proposed combined-cycle facility in Monongalia County is a component of being in the “energy conversion business.”

“The key there is having the most modern, the most efficient technology to be able to convert fuel — in that case, it will be either the coal, gas or the sun — into electricity,” Jeff Keffer said during a recent episode of MetroNews “Talkline.”

“I think this really should be the model because we need all of them,” he added.

Longview Power filed an application with the Public Service Commission of West Virginia earlier this month to add natural gas and solar energy capabilities to its coal power plant in Maidsville. Keffer said while they have been focused on making the coal operation the cleanest, most-efficient and lowest-cost plant in the country, the additions come amid changes in the energy market.

“At this point, natural gas is really setting the energy price in our region. It’s a real opportunity to take advantage of the huge reserves of natural gas that we have available,” he said. “Sort of like building a cracker, we’ll be able to convert that natural gas into electricity and ship it out of the region and not have to worry about pipelines.”

Keffer said when it comes to solar power, corporations are willing to pay extra for electricity produced through renewable sources.

“We own a lot of land, and you need that for a solar facility,” he said.

More than 185,000 solar panels will be installed on 300 acres.

“The solar facility was something we decided to add on as well to have an all-of-the-above facility.”

Electricity will then be sold to the regional power grid.

Keffer said a combination facility is the future but did not say it would mean the end of using coal.

“As the price of natural gas goes up, that’s great for the coal plant and we can continue to run the coal plant as a baseload unit,” he said. “It’s really much more a matter of having a combination and taking advantage of that combination, which is not something that many companies have done so far.”

Keffer added around 5,000 direct and indirect jobs will be filled as work on the facility is underway. He stressed union labor will be utilized.

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Morgantown slide could cost up to a half-million dollars to repair

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The connector between Sabraton and Greenmont in Morgantown, White Avenue has been closed to vehicle traffic near Marilla Park due to a slide that began to occur in the spring.

City Officials say motorists can use Brockway Avenue as an alternate.

The road remains passable for pedestrians and cyclists.

City engineer Damien Davis says they are working on a Request For Quotation to repair the slide similar to fixes completed recently on Jacobs Street and Forest Avenue.

Davis said,”We looking at a similar design, a pile lining wall will go in there.” Davis stresses recommendations from the engineering company could change the final design.

Davis expects the minimum time to complete the Request for Quotation, design, bidding, city council approval, construction and road reopening to be about six months. The stone surface will remain for approximately six additional months before paving to allow for settling.

The cost for the fix is estimated to be between $250,000 and $500,000.

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More than 100 Justice flights on state plane are side trips to Lewisburg

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When Gov. Jim Justice uses the state airplane to travel around West Virginia, the King Air 350 almost always makes a side trip or two to Lewisburg.

Office of the Governor

Jim Justice

The governor has continued to make his home in Lewisburg, a two-hour drive from Charleston and a choice that has sparked controversy over whether Justice complies with the state Constitutions’ residency requirement.

Records from the state Aviation Division show that during Justice’s time in office, the state plane has made more than 100 side trips to Lewisburg and counting.

That counts flights both by Justice and his wife, Cathy. It also counts flights when pilots have gone to Lewisburg in advance of a trip, sometimes staying overnight at a local hotel at a rate of $94 a room.

The first instance actually occurred Dec. 2, 2016, after Justice had been elected governor but prior to his inauguration. He traveled to Washington, D.C., with his transition team leader, Larry Puccio, and former State Police Captain Greg Bowman.

The King Air 350 traveled to Lewisburg the night before, then left for D.C. on Dec. 2, returning to Lewisburg and then flying back to Charleston, where the airplane is traditionally maintained.

MetroNews obtained the flight information from 2016 to the middle of this month through a Freedom of Information Act request and then a followup.

The number of side flights to or from Lewisburg, as counted by MetroNews, numbered 103 over that time.

The King Air is billed at $1,400 per hour to use. A flight between Lewisburg and Charleston is about 18 to 25 minutes, with variables including weather and fuel load. So flights between Lewisburg and Charleston are usually billed at about $550.

Multiply $550 times 100 flights from 2017 to now and that’s $55,000.

 



State Aircraft Merged (Text)

Brian Abraham

Brian Abraham, general counsel for the Governor’s Office, acknowledged the flights to and from Lewisburg.

“Not having the list in front of me, there’s no denying the record speaks for itself,” Abraham said in a telephone interview about the flights. “In terms of air miles, it’s an insignificant deviation.”

The flights are not a daily occurrence, but typically have happened when Justice traveling to events in cities around the state such as Wheeling, Morgantown or Martinsburg.

“There is no question every event you will find is tied to official business,” Abraham said.”There’s not any instance of personal use or any use of flying back and forth from Lewisburg to Charleston. He drives every time on his own dime and that continues to be the case.”

To divert to or from Lewisburg doesn’t add much to such trips, Abraham contended.

An airplane trip between Charleston and Lewisburg is about 68 miles versus a 112-mile drive.

“If there’s an event, like it’s in Morgantown and the first lady in in Lewisburg, the plane is normally stationed at Charleston. They would obviously deviate the less than 15 minutes or so it takes and go to Morgantown,” Abraham said. “They may have gone down there the evening before because of fog rolling in.

“This insinuation that the governor was using it to commute back and forth to Charleston is patently false.”

The state’s Beechcraft King Air 350 is a comfortable, twin turbine-powered business aircraft that accommodates nine passengers. The State of West Virginia has been operating King Airs since 1978.

Abraham suggested Justice’s use of the state airplane is less frequent than previous governors.

Justice made a similar statement during a June 15, 2018, press conference after state Democratic leaders had criticized his choice to live in Lewisburg, saying his residence choice made him out of touch on helping disaster victims.

The governor, using a list on a whiteboard, contended he was saving the state money in several ways.

“I don’t fly on the plane unless it’s an absolute necessity,” he said, “and I’ve done that about five times.”

Justice added, “I don’t believe in wasting the state’s money. I didn’t come here to waste the state’s money.”

A whiteboard shows what Gov. Jim Justice says is how he conducts himself.

Questions about how elected officials use state vehicles aren’t uncommon.

In Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin has faced questions this month about his use of a Kentucky State Police plane for out-of-state travel. Bevin resisted describing the reasons for the trips until his office released a summary late last week.

“The real question is: Why does it matter what the purpose (of the trip) is?” Bevin told reporters last week. “Did the taxpayers pay for it? If they did, then they should know the purpose. If they didn’t pay for it, it’s none of their business.”

West Virginia’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Allen Loughry was convicted in federal court last year on multiple charges that he had used a state-owned vehicle and state purchasing card for personal travel. Loughry countered that his trips were official business that sometimes included side trips home to visit family.

His fellow justice, Menis Ketchum, similarly pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge after admitting to repeated personal use of a state vehicle and state fuel card while commuting from his Huntington home to work at the Supreme Court and  to and from a private golf club in western Virginia.

Mike Folk

“This is 10 times as bad, as far as I’m concerned, as what Ketchum did,” said Mike Folk, who is challenging Justice in the Republican primary for governor.

Folk, a former state delegate, is also a professional airline pilot. He looked over the governor’s flight history during a trip to Denver for simulator training. He didn’t like what he saw.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate, and I don’t think the citizens would find it appropriate,” said Folk, a Martinsburg resident.

Folk’s own work experience made him particularly tuned in to overnight trips to Lewisburg by pilots who were positioning the airplane. In some instances, the King Air would be flown to Lewisburg without any passengers listed and the next day it would return to Charleston without any passengers listed.

“It looks like the governor changed his mind,” Folk said as he looked over the flight schedule.

Folk concluded that the side flights to Lewisburg are unnecessary.

“This proves he is not residing at the seat of government,” Folk said. “On top of that, he’s making the taxpayers pay for it.”

Isaac Sponaugle

Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, has been suing Justice over his residency, contending the governor doesn’t meet the state Constitution’s standard to reside at the seat of government.

The use of the airplane proves there’s a price for the governors’ residence choice, Sponaugle said last week.

“If he’d follow the Constitution and reside at the seat of government as the Constitution requires, he’d save at least $60,0000,” said Sponaugle, a lawyer in Franklin. “All that is undue expense.”

Talk of the governor’s flights to and from Lewisburg has been going on for weeks.

Sponaugle briefly mentioned it during an August 22 radio interview with Wheeling’s Howard Monroe, a day after a court hearing in the residency lawsuit.

Rob Cornelius

Rob Cornelius, who has been chairman of the Wood County GOP, discussed the Lewisburg flights on August 28 on Tom Roten’s Huntington area radio show.

Cornelius, a frequent Justice critic, sees the flights as a waste of state resources.

“It’s really important because it’s an abuse of the public trust,” Cornelius said in a telephone interview with MetroNews.

“This is use of state vehicles and state equipment that you and I don’t have access to for personal use, campaign use and some use we’re just not sure of. Maybe more importantly, this is all happening because the governor refuses and has refused to live in Charleston.”

In particular, Cornelius questions a set of flights from this past April.

The King Air flew to Lewisburg on April 24 with no passengers listed. The next day it took off for Clarksburg with the governor, his secretary Pam Rhodes and security officer David Hill. The plane went back to Lewisburg and stayed overnight, taking off April 26 for Charleston.

No reasons are listed for any of the Governor’s Office flights on the state plane. But Justice spoke the evening of April 25 at a Harrison County GOP dinner, a political event. Those who were there say Justice also had a discussion with local political leaders over issues with U.S. 19.

Cornelius has filed complaints to the state Ethics Commission and with the Secretary of State’s Office over the political nature of Justice’s state-funded travel that day.

He contends the flights, overall, represent costs that would be unnecessary if Justice would reside at the seat of government. Cornelius said that is different, though, from the message the governor often conveys.

“It absolutely does run contrary,” Cornelius said, “in the sense that he claims the way he conducts himself doesn’t cost the public extra money.”

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A week after getting no call, Martell Pettaway answers the bell

COMMENTARY

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Martell Pettaway could have turned into Martell Poutaway after one of the lowest moments of his career.

A week ago, Pettaway was a healthy scratch against North Carolina State. Outside of his freshman year, it was the first time the senior running back didn’t play in a game he dressed for.

As Neal Brown explained it, the N.C. State gameplan didn’t have any use for Pettaway, who only would have been used in two-back sets against the Wolfpack. But it still would have been easy for a fourth-year player who had already burned what should have been a redshirt season in 2016 to get frustrated. Moments like this are when you find out who is and who isn’t on board with a rookie head coach.

“Coach Brown has been telling me I needed to play better, and I used that for confidence,” Pettaway said. “Last week I wasn’t in the gameplan, but that’s fine.”

Consider Pettaway aboard the Good Ship Brown.

“Pettaway is a veteran guy. He doesn’t worry about things like that,” said fellow senior running back Kennedy McKoy. “He knew his opportunity was going to come. And he knew when his opportunity came, he would have to make the most of it.”

Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia running back Martell Pettaway (32) scores a touchdown as Kansas Jayhawks defensive tackle Jelani Brown (90) defends during the second half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

When his number was finally called in the second half at Kansas, Pettaway answered in a big way.

Pettaway’s first touch in two weeks was brilliant. Designed merely to pick up a first down on third-and-3, Pettaway turned it into a piece of art.

After making it past the marker, he picked up a block from tight end Mike O’Laughlin, then busted out a video game spin move to leave the defense grasping at air as he made his way to the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown.

“Mike O’Laughlin made a hell of a block to cut off the linebacker, and after I broke the tackle I bounced right back and knew it was going to be a touchdown if it happened like that,” Pettaway said. “That [spin] was just instinct. That just comes.”

Pettaway’s second touchdown run may have been better, albeit for different reasons.

With West Virginia facing a third-and-5 at the Kansas 7, Pettaway patiently waited for a hole to open. When a pair of options became available, he chose wisely, cutting his way to the inside of pulling right guard Chase Behrndt and cruising into the end zone for the touchdown that would ultimately be final difference on the scoreboard.

“We felt he deserved to get some reps after how he practiced this week,” Brown said. “The two touchdown runs he had were big-time plays. And that’s the kind of player he can be.”

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West Virginia grinds out road win at Kansas to open Big 12 play

LAWRENCE, Kan. — For now, any talk of West Virginia’s ineptitude in the running game can be put to bed.

Kennedy McKoy and Leddie Brown each rushed for more yardage than the Mountaineers had in their first two games combined, while Martell Pettaway added a pair of touchdowns that proved critical in a 29-24 road win over Kansas.

West Virginia finished with 192 rushing yards, a season-high. Overall it was WVU’s best rushing performance since gaining 232 yards at Texas last season.

Count Kansas coach Les Miles among the surprised.

“I have to be honest with you, I didn’t expect them to be that good,” Miles said. “They made plays, and I think our defense was on the field in the first half just seemingly forever.”

The Mountaineers, who came into the game ranked 95th nationally in third-down conversions, also picked up first downs on 9 of their 18 attempts. As a result, WVU had a 15-minute advantage in time of possession, holding the ball for 37:41.

It’s the first road win and first Big 12 win for first-year West Virginia coach Neal Brown.

“Good win. First road win. I’m proud of our young group,” Brown said. “We didn’t play our best, but we found a way. You’ve got to find a way to win on the road. You’ve got to grind it out… we showed good poise here today.”

Saturday’s game was tougher than nearly every tangle with the Jayhawks over the last eight years. Kansas’ 2013 win over West Virginia was the only previous time the Jayhawks finished within 16 points of the Mountaineers since WVU joined the Big 12 in 2012.

The margin was a show of how quickly former LSU coach Miles has re-energized the culture at KU. The listed attendance of 35,816 appeared fairly close to reality, and Kansas fans gave their team a standing ovation after the game despite the loss.

“It’s a credit to Coach Miles and his staff,” Brown said. “They’ve done a good job. They’ve made significant progress in a short amount of time.”

This one wasn’t put to rest until the Mountaineers defense forced Kansas running back Pooka Williams out of bounds at the WVU 12 on the tail end of an attempted miracle hook-and-lateral play as time expired.

Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports

Kansas wide receiver Andrew Parchment (4) laterals to running back Pooka Williams Jr. (1) as he is hit by West Virginia safety Jake Long (22) on the final play of Saturday’s game.

West Virginia seemed to give itself enough breathing room when Pettaway’s 7-yard touchdown run gave it a 29-17 lead with 5:04 remaining. But an attempted trick play on a 2-point conversion failed, and Kansas kept itself alive when Carter Stanley hit Andrew Parchment for a 3-yard touchdown pass with 2:10 left.

Sam James alertly knocked the ensuing onside kick out of bounds, but Kansas got the ball back with 32 seconds left following a Josh Growden punt that rolled into the end zone for a touchback. The Jayhawks moved the ball to midfield before attempting their final play.

It was not a banner day for the West Virginia defense, which allowed 417 yards on only 56 plays. But the defense made what Brown called the biggest play of the game, an acrobatic Keith Washington interception near midfield in the fourth quarter. Washington’s takeaway set up the 11-play drive that culminated in Pettaway’s touchdown.

“I kind of baited the quarterback a little bit because I knew I had safety help over the top,” Washington said. “In the beginning, I thought I misjudged it a little bit, but God blessed me and I made the play.”

The ensuing 11-play touchdown drive featured 10 runs and a sweet release for an offensive line that was maligned following a Week 2 loss at Missouri.

“It’s a mindset. We haven’t changed fundamentals or run schemes,” said senior left tackle Colton McKivitz. “It’s just guys playing hard. That’s been the biggest key for the past two weeks. We’re getting mad, we’re getting angry coming off the ball.

“The first two weeks we were the talk of the team for not doing our job. So they’re taking it to heart and those young guys are playing physical. They have some aggression with ’em.”

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Photo gallery: Capital moves to 3-1 with win over Parkersburg

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Photos from Capital’s 35-13 win over Parkersburg.

(Photos courtesy of Chuck Roberts)

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Update: Suspects arrested in Raleigh County murder case

RALEIGH COUNTY, W.Va. — Two suspects were arrested Saturday and charged with the murder of a man whose body was found in a wooded area of Raleigh County, earlier this week.

Franklin Yancey, 24, and William Garretson, 54, both of Glen Morgan, were taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies and charged in the shooting death of 20-year-old Roy Lee Barnes III of Crab Orchard.

Barnes’ body was discovered Tuesday near Whitby.

The suspects are being held at Southern Regional Jail.

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